Installing an Outdoor Outlet


Are you tired of running hazardous, bulky extension cords around your beautiful back yard every time you need power? Do you want to put up mood lights on the gazebo, have a mini fridge by the lounge chairs, or turn your back yard into a theater with a projector? Then, this article is for you. Installing an outdoor outlet can open a world of back yard possibilities and enable you to make the most of your outdoor spaces.



The first step in installing a new outdoor outlet is selecting the right location. There are two basic options: an exterior wall of the house or a spot in the yard connected to an exterior wall by underground wiring. Outlets installed on the exterior of house walls should be positioned opposite to an interior outlet. This is because the interior outlet provides a prime place to tap into a working electrical circuit already within your home. Use caution when choosing which outlet you tap into though. Circuits connected to kitchen, laundry, or bathroom appliances as well as A/C or heating units are not good choices. Adding another outlet to these circuits may trip the circuit breaker, as they already supply large amounts of energy. Choosing a location in the yard will require more time, labor and equipment. A trench will have to be made creating a pathway from an exterior wall outlet to where you would like the new one to be. This means the trench may have to cross under stone or cement pathways and must avoid buried utility pipes. In order to avoid hitting and possibly damaging these pipes, visit the Sunshine811 website and call at least two business days before beginning the project. The state will send professionals to your home to mark the location of underground utilities, free of charge. Whichever outlet option you choose, you should consult a professional electrician. As part of the process, your hired electrician may also call the state for you to have the underground utility lines marked.


Exterior Wall Outlet

While this installation can be done as a DIY project with proper research, it is best to hire an electrician to do the work instead because of its technical nature and possible safety hazards. It is important to note that any outdoor outlet is required by law to be a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet (GFCI). An electrician can make sure the outlet you wish to use is a GFCI prior to starting the project. The installation process begins with testing and then shutting off the interior outlet at the circuit breaker. Be sure to leave a clear sign over the breaker warning others not to turn the power back on while work is being done. An exterior wall outlet should be simple for a professional to handle, and there typically is not a big clean up required. So, there is no need to worry about clearing the room. Just make sure the area in front and directly around the existing outlet and new outlet area is easily accessible and clear of clutter. Try to keep pets and small children away from the room while work is done, as there will be exposed wires. First, the outlet will be removed from the wall, exposing the electrical box and wiring inside. The electrician will be creating a hole from the interior of the house to the exterior in order to run wires through it and connect a new outlet outside. Once the new exterior electrical box is in its slot and the wires are fed through, the wiring is connected. This connects the new exterior outlet to the same circuit as the interior one, supplying power to both. When the wiring is finished, the outlets get pushed back into the wall and the cover plates are put on again. Some outdoor GFCIs use gaskets to secure the outlet to the wall. You should find one that comes with a weather proof covering or buy a covering separately in order to protect the outlet from the elements. Finally, you can turn the power to the outlets back on. Make sure both are tested again to confirm they work properly, and do not forget to make sure the reset button is working as well.


Removed Exterior Outlet

If you want to install an outlet in any location not directly on an exterior wall, then you can expect the following extra steps. This outlet installation requires an outlet on an exterior wall of your home with a conduit junction. Should an existing exterior electrical box not have a conduit junction, it must be replaced with one that does. Once the exterior wall outlet is in place and your dig site has been marked for all present underground utilities, it is time for trenching. Remove any furniture or other obstacles that may impede work. You should also be prepared for the fact that you may have to replant grass or re-lay moveable stone pathways afterwards. Once the trench path is complete, PVC pipes will be put in. The wiring will run through the pipes to protect it from the elements. Note that some professionals may prefer or require a different type of conduit in keeping with safety guidelines and codes. After laying and sealing the pipes, the trench can be refilled. If you frequently do outdoor projects that require digging, consider filling in a thin layer of sand above the pipes to serve as a warning should you ever dig too close to it. Next, the wiring will be pulled through the pipes and connected to the outlets on each end. If the new outlet will not be screwed onto an existing structure in the yard, such as a fence, flowerbed, or gazebo, then you will need to have a post put in. The post can be as tall or short as you like so long as it fits the new GFCI outlet and electrical box with the exposed PVC conduit attached to it. The post can be installed without professional help if you choose. Simply dig a hole adjacent to the exposed pipe that will allow the outlet and pipe to rest on the post comfortably when screwed on. Place the post in the hole and refill it. Some prefer to fill part of the hole around the base of the post with mixed cement, or an expanding foam that hardens like rock. This makes the post sturdier and less likely to get knocked over or tilted. Once the post is installed, the exposed pipe and electrical box can be secured to it with screws, completing your new outdoor outlet.


This job done right opens the door to turn your back yard into the perfect space for every family need. When it comes to powering your home indoors and out, safety should be the highest priority. That is why we highly recommend hiring a professional for this project. In just a day’s worth of work, you can enjoy easily accessible power wherever you want it. 


Jamie Soto

Home & Yard Magazine